SOLANA BEACH — Council members have questioned the results of a report they ordered in response to an initiative that could dictate the use of the Fletcher Cove Community Center.
City Attorney Johanna Canlas sent a letter dated Nov. 26 to Helen Holmes Peak that lists a handful of “significant impacts” council members said are not discussed or analyzed in the report they ordered on Oct. 9.
Council members said the document does not address the fact that any changes to the potential new law could only be made by the voters in an election, which the city would have to pay for.
However, in two sections — under fiscal impacts and in the conclusion — the report states that the city “may face costs from increased elections.”
The letter also states any legal challenges to the measure, if adopted by voters at a Feb. 11, 2014 special election, would have to be defended and paid for by the city.
According to the initiative, Fletcher Cove Community Center will be “available for use by Solana Beach residents.”
City officials are concerned that language could result in equal protection claims. “While the Constitution does not presume distinctions between residents and nonresidents … to be discriminatory,” the letter states, the measure is unclear whether nonresidents are excluded from using the center.
The measure, now known as Proposition B, allows the city to collect “nominal fees.” Because the amount is not specific, council members fear the city “would only be able to charge a small amount and would not be able to recover costs.”
City officials say Proposition B does not take into consideration the number of parking spaces available at the community center because it does not limit the number of people who can attend special events there.
Canlas writes in her letter that the law “could be challenged by neighbors if the parking situation has a negative impact” on the area.
City officials also said the report did not fully address any impacts from confusion between legislative acts and administrative functions.
The report, prepared by Peak and Inga Lintvedt, from Lounsbery Ferguson Altona & Peak, analyzed, according to the election code, any impacts the new law may have in seven specific areas.
The election code allows the preparers to study any other matters requested. “The City Council did not request that any other matters be analyzed,” the report states.
According to the conclusion, the use policy is not expected to have any negative impacts.
The city “may face costs from increased elections, but … is not expected to lose any money from allowing special event permits to be issued for FCCC,” the report states.
“Likewise, based on the documents and analysis included in this Report, there are not expected to be adverse impacts to the City’s General and Specific Plans, zoning, land use, housing, funding for infrastructure, schools, parks, traffic, parking, open space, business retention and employment, vacant parcels, agriculture, business districts or areas designated for revitalization.”
City Council received the report at the Nov.20 meeting, which Tom Campbell participated in via telephone because he was out of town.
He said he didn’t have a chance to read it thoroughly before the meeting and wasn’t feeling well. After returning home and rereading the report he said he had concerns that some conclusions “may not have been based on the actual facts and there were issues that were not considered.”
He asked that the item be discussed at the Nov. 20 meeting so he could voice those concerns publicly. At that meeting council members voted unanimously to share those issues with Peak.
“We would have been happy to cover those if they had requested that,” Peak said. “But they did not request that.”
“It was my understanding that everything would be looked at,” Mayor Mike Nichols said. “It doesn’t make sense to do some things and not others. They read what was being proposed. We thought they would do the work and analyze everything.”
Fletcher Cove Community Center is a 1935 Civilian Conservation Corps barracks on Pacific Avenue with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. It is used for community meetings and classes and was once available for private celebrations that occasionally disrupted the adjacent neighborhood with loud music, traffic and overconsumption of alcohol.
The parties stopped more than a decade ago when the building started crumbling. But after a renovation project was completed in 2011, residents sought to use the facility again for private celebrations.
Those living near the facility set out to avoid repeating history. They worked with city officials and community members who wanted to use the center for weekend celebrations — many of them donors to the $370,000 renovation effort — to work out a compromise.
Most issues were resolved except alcohol consumption, which isn’t allowed at any city facility. Council members were set to make the final decision in June but when it was obvious there wouldn’t be consensus, they tabled the discussion.
That prompted a group of residents called Friends of Fletcher Cove Community Center to gather signatures for a citizen initiative so voters could decide what events could take place at the center.
To avoid a $200,000 special election, City Council adopted a 14-month trial use policy, but those behind the initiative said it was too restrictive so they submitted the petitions.
Council’s choices were to call for the election or adopt the policy, which they say is flawed.
“In my opinion the report is very thorough and clear,” said Mary Jane Boyd, a member of Friends of Fletcher Cove. “The council is trying to cover themselves and not take responsibility for the decision they made to call for a special election.”
Nichols said he is not blaming any of the attorneys for what the council considers an “inaccurate and incomplete report.”
“How we got here is irrelevant,” he said. “There are impacts that need to be identified that the public needs to be aware of.”